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Special Report | Empowered by Debt

  • “Don’t Owe. Won’t Pay.” Everything You’ve Been Told About Debt Is Wrong
  • With the nation’s household debt burden at $11.85 trillion, even the most modest challenges to its legitimacy have revolutionary implications.

Charles Eisenstein, Yes! Magazine

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don-t-owe-won-t-pay-charles-eisenstein-debt-20150820/eisensteinwebsketch.jpg/imageAug 20, 2015 | The legitimacy of a given social order rests on the legitimacy of its debts. Even in ancient times this was so. In traditional cultures, debt in a broad sense—gifts to be reciprocated, memories of help rendered, obligations not yet fulfilled—was a glue that held society together. Everybody at one time or another owed something to someone else. Repayment of debt was inseparable from the meeting of social obligations; it resonated with the principles of fairness and gratitude.

If one debt can be nullified, maybe all of them can.

The moral associations of making good on one’s debts are still with us today, informing the logic of austerity as well as the legal code. A good country, or a good person, is supposed to make every effort to repay debts. Accordingly, if a country like Jamaica or Greece, or a municipality like Baltimore or Detroit, has insufficient revenue to make its debt payments, it is morally compelled to privatize public assets, slash pensions and salaries, liquidate natural resources, and cut public services so it can use the savings to pay creditors. Such a prescription takes for granted the legitimacy of its debts.

Charles Eisenstein wrote this article for The Debt Issue, the Fall 2015 issue of Yes! 

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Magazine. Charles is the author of Sacred Economics and The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.

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Introducing The Debt Issue, Christa Hillstrom, editor, yesmagazine.org

Our Fall 2015 issue (of Yes! Magazine) shipped this week (Aug 20, 2015), and it's all about debt: bad debt, good debt, how to rethink debt. In our first big article from The Debt Issue, best-selling author Charles Eisenstein goes right to the foundation of the debt system and asks, "Is it legitimate?" I hope you find his article as fascinating and inspiring as we do. Also, watch for online-only debt content, like the essay below by a student-debt strike leader, and the story about former debt collectors who changed their tune. 

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Section(s): 

The US Economy Continues Its Collapse

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  • Clearly, this is not an economy that has a future.
  • 35 soul-crushing facts about American income inequality

Paul Craig Roberts, Countercurrents.org

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2014092742.gif10 August, 2015 | Do you remember when real reporters existed? Those were the days before the Clinton regime concentrated the media into a few hands and turned the media into a Ministry of Propaganda, a tool of Big Brother. The false reality in which Americans live extends into economic life. Last Friday’s employment report was a continuation of a long string of bad news spun into good news. The media repeats two numbers as if they mean something—the monthly payroll jobs gains and the unemployment rate—and ignores the numbers that show the continuing multi-year decline in employment opportunities while the economy is allegedly recovering.

The so-called recovery is based on the U.3 measure of the unemployment rate. This measure does not include any unemployed person who has become discouraged from the inability to find a job and has not looked for a job in four weeks. The U.3 measure of unemployment only includes the still hopeful who think they will find a job.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate.

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35 soul-crushing facts about American income inequality, Larry SchwartzAlterNet / Salon

The money given out in Wall Street bonuses last year was twice the amount all minimum-wage workers earned combined

Section(s): 

35 soul-crushing facts about American income inequality

The money given out in Wall Street bonuses last year was twice the amount all minimum-wage workers earned combined.

Larry SchwartzAlterNet / Salon

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gated_mansion.jpg(Credit: romakoma via Shutterstock

Wednesday, Jul 15, 2015 | While Hillary Clinton occasionally gives some lip service to the problem of extreme inequality, Bernie Sanders is the only candidate really hammering away at it. He has even blasted the orthodoxy of economic growth for its own sake, saying according to Monday’s Washington Post that unless economic spoils can be redistributed to make more Americans’ lives better, all the growth will go to the top 1% anyway, so who needs it? Sanders might know his history, but the rest of the candidates could use a little primer.

The United States was not always the most powerful nation on Earth. It was only with the end of World War II, with the rest of the developed world in smoldering ruins, that America emerged as the free world’s leader. This coincided with the expansion of the U.S. middle class. With the other war combatants trying to recover from the destruction of the war, America became the supermarket, hardware store and auto dealership to the world. Markets for American products abounded and opportunity was everywhere for American workers of all economic means to get ahead. America had a virtual monopoly on rebuilding the world. Combined with the G.I. Bill of 1944, which provided money for returning veterans to go to college, and government loans to buy houses and start businesses, the middle class in America boomed, as did American power, wealth and prestige. Between 1946 and 1973, productivity in America grew by 104 percent. Unions led the way in assuring wages for workers grew by an equal amount.

Larry Schwartz is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer with a focus on health, science and American history.

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Section(s): 

Noam Chomsky | Greece Faces "Savage Response" for Fighting Against Austerity

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  • "What's going on with the austerity is really class war. As an economic program, austerity, under recession, makes no sense. It just makes the situation worse." 
  • Paul Krugman | Fighting conservative "derp" is your civic responsibility.

Amy Goodma, Democracy Now!

017105-chomsky-070315.jpgNoam Chomsky. (photo: Sascha Schuermann/AFP/Getty)

Wednesday, July 1, 2015 | As Greece defaults and faces a referendum this Sunday on a new bailout package, watch Noam Chomsky on Europe’s "savage response" to the pushback against austerity demands. He spoke to Democracy Now! in March.

Click here to watch Monday’s segment, "As Greece Heads for Default, Voters Prepare to Vote in Pivotal Referendum on More Austerity."

Noam Chomsky, world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author. He is institute professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he has taught for more than 50 years.

Amy Goodman is an American award-winning broadcast journalist, syndicated columnist, investigative reporter and author. Goodman's investigative journalism career includes coverage of the East Timor independence movement and Chevron Corporation's role in Nigeria.

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Paul Krugman | Fighting conservative "derp" is your civic responsibility, Scott Eric Kaufman, Salon

  • The NY Times columnist advises you on how "to protect yourself against derpitude"
  • Paul Krugman channels "South Park"
  • James Carville Says 80% Of Democrats Are Politically Clueless

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